Air pollution may cause permanent damage to your child's brain

Air pollution may cause permanent damage to your child's brain

"Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs - they can permanently damage their developing brains - and, thus, their futures", said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.

The findings come at a time when India, particularly in the north, is facing a serious crisis due to rising levels of pollution.

The fine particles of urban pollution can damage the blood-brain barrier, the membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances, exacerbating the risk of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly.

The United Nations report had also stated that it is South Asia which has the largest percentage of babies that are living in areas where the pollution in air is at least around six times higher than the set global limits which happens to be ten micro grams for one cubic metre.

The majority of these babies - more than 12 million - are in South Asia, it said, in a study of children under one-year-old, using satellite imagery to identify worst-affected regions.

The air pollution level has been consistently 10 points above the safe zone.

The report highlights the relationship between pollution and brain functions " like memory and verbal IQ and non-verbal, test results, lower scores among schoolchildren, as well as other neurological problems ".

Air pollutants inhaled during pregnancy can affect the developing brain of a foetus, with potential lifelong effects, says the report.

"Air pollution affects millions of Indias children, but there are all practical solutions that can make a big difference", Westerbeek said. "As yet, we know the minimum - but not the maximum - extent of the harm".

UNICEF urged more efforts to cut pollution, and also to reduce children's exposure to the poisonous smog which has frequently reached hazardous levels in Indian cities in recent weeks.

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a "major environmental risk to health".

It shows that air pollution, like inadequate nutrition, and stimulation and exposure to violence during critical first 1,000 days of life, can impact childrens early childhood development by affecting their growing brains.

"A lot of focus goes on making sure children have good quality education, but also important is the development of the brain itself", he added. "A mask that does not fit the face well won't work".

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